How to Fix a Garbage Disposal that Won’t Drain Properly

How to Fix a Garbage Disposal that Won't Drain Properly

Having a garbage disposal is a great way to manage food waste in your kitchen, but that doesn’t mean that the machine will always work properly. As handy as they are, garbage disposals are prone to a few significant issues.

One of the most prevalent problems that you may encounter is a disposal that won’t drain correctly. There are a few iterations of this common occurrence, so it’s necessary to understand how to fix all of them just to be safe.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the following ways your disposal may stop working and what you can do to correct it.

My Garbage Disposal is Running But Not Draining. What Happens and How to Fix It?

In this instance, you turn the machine on, and it hums, but water doesn’t flow down through the pipe. What’s likely happening is that there is a clog below the disposal, which is causing water to back up. Fortunately, since clogs happen all of the time, there are a few ways that you can solve the issue.

Before you do anything, however, it’s imperative that you shut off your disposal and water first. This will ensure that you don’t encounter any electrical or plumbing problems that could pose a danger to your health or safety.

Option One: Disconnect the Pipe and Remove the Clog

Usually, the S curve is where clogs develop since this section is so tight. Hopefully, this will be the case, meaning that you can pop it off and remove the insides. However, if the clog is somewhere further down the line, you may have to call a professional.

  • Step One (after shutting off water and electricity): Put towels or a bucket below the pipe before you unscrew it. This will catch any leftover water still inside.
  • Step Two: Unscrew the pipe from the garbage disposal, and then pull the section out.
  • Step Three: Remove the clog from the pipe and clean it out thoroughly. Use a flashlight to inspect for other materials further down. Also, inspect the bottom of the disposal for any kind of blockage
  • Step Four: Reseal the pipe and reconnect it to the disposal.
  • Step Five: Test the sink first by running water through it. If it doesn’t pool, then that means you’ve removed the problem. If it continues to back up, then you have another clog further down the pipe.


Option Two: Use a Plunger

This method is effective and doesn’t require much knowledge about pipes and plumbing to make it work. Again, ensure that the disposal is turned off and unplugged so that you don’t get zapped in the process.

  • Step One: Use a hex wrench to loosen the impellers. There should be a hex fitting on the bottom. Use the wrench to wiggle it free. This will ensure that the impellers don’t impede your plunging process.
  • Step Two: Fill the sink about a quarter of the way with water. Use a standard plunger (not a flange model) and make a seal around the drain. Plunge the sink in the same way you would a toilet.
  • Step Three: Once the water starts draining again, reset the impellers by tightening the hex fitting. You may have to reset the disposal to get it back on.



My Sink Only Drains When the Garbage Disposal is On. What Happens and How to Fix It?

With modern garbage disposals, you should be able to drain water freely without having to turn the unit on. So, if your sink starts backing up unless the disposal is activated, that could mean one of several problems going on.

First, your drain line may be lower than the pipe that connects to the plumbing. This means that water doesn’t flow away since gravity is working against you. This is also why the disposal works to drain the sink since it creates pressure that forces the water to go into the pipe.

Second, your disposal may be clogged. In this case, you will want to disconnect the pieces and see if there is something stuck inside. In some instances, you may be able to use ice cubes or hard pasta to remove any materials that are not getting shredded.

Finally, your disposal just may be defective. If your drainage pipe is clear and there isn’t any particular reason that it’s collecting water, you may have to replace it with another model.

Related: Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts


How to Prevent the Draining Problem?

All too often, people think of garbage disposals as magical food shredders that can accept any and all waste. However, that is rarely the case, unless you have a unit that is specifically designed to handle that kind of load.

Usually, following these tips will help you avoid drainage problems in the future.

  • Never toss fruit peels or rinds into the disposal (unless they are already chopped up)
  • Avoid putting fibrous foods and materials into the unit
  • Always run hot water when you activate the disposal. This ensures that any food oils are broken up and will drain
  • Never put grease or other oils in the sink
  • Never put hard materials, such as bones or metal, into the disposal

Learn more about what you should put and should not put in a garbage disposal.

Overall, proper care and maintenance should help you avoid all kinds of issues that would otherwise plague your sink.

2 responses to “How to Fix a Garbage Disposal that Won’t Drain Properly

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